A selection of courses taught recently at undergraduate and graduate level. Details of courses on offer in the current academic year may be found on the Department of English website.
This course will ask two questions: what is the gothic, and what is the gothic for? The first question is about the topics, preoccupations, forms and styles that characterize the gothic. The second is about the social, political and cultural purposes that the gothic serves. Understanding the gothic thoroughly, this class suggests, means seeking answers to both these questions. Beginning with the emergence of gothic in the mid-eighteenth century, we will trace the cultural history of the gothic in novels, poems and film over the last two hundred years.
The Subject of Poetry: Marvell to Coleridge
This class surveys a selection of poetry written in English between the end of the seventeenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth. It concerns the ‘subject’ of poetry in at least two senses. Firstly, it investigates what constituted an appropriate subject for poetry in this period, and how assumptions about what poets could or should write about changed over time. Secondly, it explores the figure of the poet, the individual subject who wrote the poems, and the various constraints and conventions to which he or she was subject. These various senses of the word ‘subject’ overlap at times, so that the writing subject (the poet) becomes the subject of his or her own writing.
Don Juan Uncut
Lord Byron’s seventeen-canto poem Don Juan (1819-24) is the most important long poem in English to appear between Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667) and Wordsworth’s The Prelude (1850). Yet few people read it all the way through. One reason for this neglect is that weâ€™ve forgotten the publication history of Don Juan. In this course weâ€™ll study the poem in depth and consider it as an event â€“ perhaps an epoch â€“ in print culture. We will read the poem in the installments in which it was first published, along with some of the parodies, spurious continuations and commentaries that appeared contemporaneously. We will also pay attention to the poem’s complex manuscript, publication and printing history. We will examine the early editions of the poem available in Edinburgh libraries. Finally, we will examine some central ideas in the poem, with the help of recent criticism. Themes addressed may include: comedy and pantomime, gender and sexuality, conquest and empire, history and memory, discipline and subjectivity, and modernity.
ENGL 331: Literature of the Romantic Period I
This course will introduce students to a selection of English literature from the earlier Romantic period. It will include writers who have historically been central to the study of this period, such as William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and William Blake, writers who, while consistently studied, have remained marginal, such as Jane Austen and George Crabbe, and writers who have only recently started to make an impact on our understanding of the period, such as Mary Robinson and Anna Barbauld. While paying attention to the artistic craftsmanship of the writers we study, we will also place them in the historical context of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, and think about what links their period and their concerns with our own.
ENGL 332: Literature of the Romantic Period II
This course will introduce students to a selection of English literature from the later Romantic period. It will include writers who have historically been central to the study of this period (Byron, Shelley, Keats), writers who, while consistently studied, have remained marginal (Hazlitt, De Quincey, Hunt) and writers who have recently started to make an impact on our understanding of the period (Landon, Hemans, Clare). The course will include poetry, drama, novels and non-fiction prose. It will introduce students to such important Romantic themes as Landscape, Tourism, Inspiration, Memory, the Common Man, Orientalism, Medievalism, the City and the Sublime. While paying attention to the artistic craftsmanship of the writers we study, we will also place them in the historical context of the early nineteenth century, and think about what links their period and their concerns with our own. While it is not required, an understanding of poetics such as that gained in ENGL 311 is recommended, as is some experience of studying literature written before 1800.
ENGL 334: Victorian Poetry
This course will introduce students to a variety of British poetry written during the 63-year-long reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901). This was a period of enormous national pride, imperial expansion, industrial growth, technological innovation and political change, which generated both high levels of confidence in ‘progress’ and high levels of anxiety about public morality, religious belief, gender roles and the national character. We will examine how poetry engaged with those concerns by studying the works of poets such as Matthew Arnold, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Browning, Arthur Hugh Clough, Ernest Dowson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Charlotte Mew, Christina Rossetti, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Algernon Charles Swinburne, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and James Thomson. We will examine a variety of forms and genres, such as the lyric, the sonnet, the dramatic monologue, the elegy, the hymn and the ode, as well as a number of recurrent Victorian concerns, such as the “death of God”, the morality of sex, the place of art in modernity, and the attractions of decadence.
ENGL 346: Sociology and Materiality of Texts
This course is dedicated to exploring the material conditions out of which texts emerge, and in which they make their impact. It will scrutinize the contingencies of production, promotion, distribution, circulation and reception that help to shape the meanings of texts, and the ways in which those contingencies may be either thematized or effaced. It will consider ways in which meaning can be located not only in the words of a poem, but also in the physicality of the book, or newspaper, or parchment, or papyrus, or web page in which it appears. And it will examine tensions between the author’s intentions, the publisher’s interests, the reviewer’s agenda and the reader’s pleasures, which result in the production of texts whose ontology is complex and layered. Beginning with such pioneers as W. W. Greg, D. F. Mackenzie and Roger Chartier, it will explore what Jerome McGann has called “the textual condition” in order to help students develop a more sophisticated understanding of what texts are and do.
ENGL 404: Intersections of Literary & Visual Culture in the Nineteenth Century
Historically, critics have been reluctant to consider texts and images as part of a single field of enquiry. David Piper began his study of poets’ portraits by admitting that “[t]he subject lies on the periphery of literature” and expressing his concern that it would appear “noxiously distracting”. Such anxieties may be the legacy of a “fear of […] visual images” that William Galperin identifies as “endemic to romantic poetics”, and the product of the post-Romantic arrangement of academic disciplines. More recently, however, literary critics and art historians have been more willing to cross disciplinary boundaries and map out connections between verbal and visual texts. This course will feature a number of examples of intersections between literary and visual culture in the nineteenth century, and will encourage students to consider the theoretical and methodological implications of studying these meeting points.
ENGL 533: Romantic & Victorian Celebrity Culture
Celebrity culture does not want to be understood. It functions best when consumers remain mystified by it, attributing a celebrity’s success to his or her magical star quality. We live in a culture obsessed by celebrities, but very few people have studied the history of celebrity culture, or theorized its significance. This course will explore the idea that there were celebrities before film. It will include figures such as Laurence Sterne, Mary Robinson, Lord Byron, Ann Yearsley, Letitia Landon, Henry James and Oscar Wilde. It will also include the media, genres and technologies that sustained celebrity, such as the book review, the biographical sketch, the interview, the gossip column, the steel-plate engraving and the photograph.
ENGL 535: Byron, Shelley, and the Book
This course will study the works of Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, paying special attention to the books in which those works have been published. Drawing on the treasures of the university’s Rare Books and Special Collections Division, the course will introduce students to bibliographic methods of analysis designed to inform critical readings of Byron’s and Shelley’s major poems. Topics may include: the publication histories of individual works, the relationship of both poets to their publishers, piracies, unauthorised circulation and international reprinting, and the posthumous construction of the poets’ oeuvres through editorial practices and collected editions (including Mary Shelley’s posthumous stewardship of her husband’s works). Throughout, our focus will be on exploring the material history of these authors’ works as a way to develop more sophisticated and contextualised readings of those works.
ENGL 730: Romanticism and Visual Culture
‘Awesome combinations of failure, difference, distance, lag, divergence, and conflict establish the relations of texts and images in the Romantic period’ according to Morris Eaves. This course will examine some of those relations and the tensions they create between visual and literary culture. But while accounts such as Eaves’s tend to represent these relations as paragonal or antagonistic, this course will also explore collaborations and potential synergies between word and image in this period. To do so, we will examine ways in which literary and visual arts each thematise the other, and ways in which they circulate alongside each other in the period’s complex media ecology. Possible topics include: illuminated books, illustrated editions, statues and memorials (and poems about them), popular visual entertainments such as the panorama and the diorama, galleries and display, early photography, ekphrasis.
ENGL 730: Romanticism & its Critics
This course will enable students to broaden and deepen their understanding of English literature from the Romantic Period (1780-1830). It will provide an overview of the major critical approaches to this body of work, such as historicism, feminism, neo-formalism, postcolonialism and book history. By assigning literary texts from the Romantic period alongside some seminal critical writing of the last twenty years, this course will introduce students to the ongoing scholarly and methodological debates surrounding the academic study of Romanticism. Students will be encouraged to compare different critical approaches, evaluate the insights that those approaches make possible, and situate themselves within the current debate.